Wait...did I say that as Christians, we are not supposed to be patriotic Americans? Actually, no - that's not what I said.
But I'll say it right now, just to be clear.
As Christians, we are not supposed to be patriotic Americans.
Patriotism is an act of worship, and it is an act of worship of the state. The state is not God; therefore, the state is an idol and patriotism is idol worship. That's the heart of the matter, and the matter of the heart is that too many Christians party harder and celebrate more joyously on patriotic American holidays than on any Sunday they spend with the church, including Christmas and Easter. Many Christians will even skip church on American holiday weekends - like this past weekend we had or Memorial Day, which always falls across a weekend holiday - to go out and celebrate the American holiday. They will skip church to go out on their boat, grill hot dogs, have a bonfire, whatever.
Let that sink in for a minute and ask yourself if that whole line about patriotism being an act of worship - and an idol - doesn't immediately make more sense.
Not only that, but being an American is not intrinsically tied to being a Christian. That is, you happen to be a Christian living in America because this is where God knit you together in your mother's womb. There's nothing particularly special, when it comes to being a Christian, about being an American. You could just as easily have been a Scotsman or a Namibian or a Peruvian (and you might be just as tempted in those places to develop a worship for the state, as well; that's just how our human brain works).
Even Israel wasn't meant to be a political nation. The Lord grieved when His people demanded a king like all of the other nations. He'd spent His entire story from "in the beginning" trying to form a people who were unlike all of the others on the earth, and even when His Son came as a king, He made very clear that His Kingdom was not like all of the others.
There's absolutely nothing in the Scriptures about being a people devoted to country, about being a patriotic people committed to the state, about celebrating the earthly places in which we dwell. Because we are, in fact, citizens of Heaven. Plain and simple.
And, at least in America, too many of us seem to have forgotten that. Because we're too busy being Americans.
Now, that said, let's talk about what that doesn't mean. That doesn't mean that we become unpatriotic - that we diminish the state and denigrate it and dismiss it. It doesn't mean that we stand on street corners and tell patriotic Americans that they're missing the boat, that they're worshiping the wrong thing. It doesn't mean we are antagonistic toward the state. That's not biblical, either. God says very clearly to pray for the peace and prosperity of Babylon, even to pray for Jerusalem, which was His people's home "state." We are to be actively involved in the places where we live.
But we are not to worship them. In that sense, then, we are called to be nonpatriotic - having no sense of adoring affection and loving devotion to America, per se. Not because we are not thankful to be here but because we understand that we are just sojourners passing through, that this is not our home. And the minute we let it become our home, it gets a piece of our heart that is reserved for heaven.
That's how so many of us are living too earthly-minded lives. We've set up our home here, and home...is where the heart it. So our hearts are here. And that's the kind of thing we're expressing when we become patriotic and start worshiping the state.
And if you need another reminder of that, think again to what you thought about earlier - how different your 4th of July cookout looks than your last church service. Or even your last church potluck. Or how quick you are to get to the lake on Memorial Day...and how quick you are to get out of church to get there (or even skip church entirely).
American patriotism is not an act of Christian faith. It is not a marker of our holiness. It is not a righteous pursuit.
So then, we should not attempt to hijack patriotic cultural holidays and pretend to baptize them into our faith because they are not a mark of our faith at all.
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